Opinion - Hands Off My Kids! Guns, Vaccines, Child Rights, Parental Control and SB 18

By Michael Monasky | March 1, 2017 |   Angry parents picketed, protested, and lashed out at California Senator Richard Pan, as he...



By Michael Monasky | March 1, 2017 |  

Angry parents picketed, protested, and lashed out at California Senator Richard Pan, as he and a panel of supporters rolled out Senate Bill 18 Tuesday night at a town hall meeting in one of last night in one of Sacramento's poorest neighborhoods. 

Titled The Bill of Rights for Children and Youth, it aspires to improve delivery of educational and social services to California's children. Ironically, Pan repeatedly referred to Jim Steyer and his privately-owned, child-media review company, Common Sense Media, as the sponsor of the bill. (see related story here).

Meanwhile, there was ample evidence at the local town hall meeting that kids and their parents are falling through the cracks in our social safety net. A psychiatric nurse gave testimony that abused kids with mental illness did not receive needed treatment; Senator Pan, like a true clinician, beamed a pediatric smile and solved the problem by defining it as “adverse childhood events and toxic stress.” Phil Serna, who chairs the Sacramento County First Five Commission (which should be taking the lead sponsorship as a public agency-not CSM), welcomed state funding and declared that there is “room for improvement.”
            
Another mother walked her autistic, special needs son to the microphone, complaining that he regularly leaves the school site. Again, Pan inserted his incomplete diagnosis, stating that there are “walls between [agency] silos” such as the school, Alta Regional services, etc; while failing to mention that insufficient state funding for child protection social workers prevents special needs children from receiving comprehensive, coordinated wrap-around services.

Greg Burt of the California Family Council, associated with Focus On The Family, home-schooled his kids and asked: “Do kids have the right to sue parents?” Assemblyman Kevin McCarty said “we're shortchanging our schools and building prisons.” Mr. Burt had to repeat his question and was frustrated by the panel's responses. It's further troubling that SB 18's vague yet strident language establishing civil rights for kids could make it possible for chartered cities, counties, and school districts to sue the state for less than “optimal” schools, parks, and funding for child care, etc. Under this bill, it's likely possible that a child and his parents could have legal standing to sue the state school system for not providing the most “optimal” emotional, social, psychological, physical, and spiritual experiences possible.

Another mother, who complained of a three month delay in her child's speech therapy, questioned the panel's veracity in delivering such “optimal” childhood experiences when her child's most basic needs aren't being met. Supervisor Serna interjected that SB 18 provides counties a “declaratory value,” prioritizing the state's conflicting and unfunded mandates.

Perhaps the ugliest shouting matches of the evening engaged parents whose anger has been smoldering since the 2015 passage of Senator Pan's SB 277, vaccination exemptions for personal beliefs. Pan as pediatrician touts the value of herd immunity for highly communicable diseases for which vaccinations are available. There are rare, adverse reactions to vaccines; that's why many pharmaceutical companies no longer make them. Recurring incidents of these diseases in affluent communities prompted passage of SB 277.

Steyer left the panel early with the imperative: “show me something more important than kids in California.” (Parents, perhaps?) Dave Gilbert said he was concerned that, as a gun owner, the state could rule his possessions inappropriate for his children, come into his home and seize his weapons. Another mother declared, “I own guns, I home-school, and I don't vaccinate my kids.” Senator Pan responded: “The intent of SB 18 is not to punish parents.” Nonetheless, parents perceived the panel's shaming and muttered objections to feeling second-rate and not “optimal.”

Perhaps there are lessons for pediatrician-Senator Richard Pan in these brisk, public confrontations. First, parents have a powerfully emotional stake in raising their kids as they see fit. Second, there is a broad spectrum of perfectly acceptable and legal parental behaviors wedged between outright negligence and abuse. Third, people want to be heard and understood. Fourth, public agencies, like Sacramento County First Five Commission, should take charge and responsibility for research and development of such sensitive public policies; not privately-owned and privately-controlled commissions like Common Sense Media, which have a private, fiduciary conflict of interest to influence public policy. Fifth, poor and minority neighborhoods might need support, but it was primarily an affluent and white group, some from Elk Grove, that was most vocal at Tuesday night's town hall. It would be “optimal” for Senator Pan to ignore neither constituent.




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